Hindi Cinema Has Not Properly Tapped the Potential of Social Thrillers


The social thriller movie can be a very effective and useful genre of cinema. Social thriller movies are those thriller films which make a more conscious and emphatic effort to raise some important issues of social concern or to convey a strong socially relevant message. These are an important means of taking socially relevant messages to film viewers.

Unfortunately this genre which has a rich potential in India has not been used adequately in Hindi cinema. One of the early efforts in this direction was CID, directed by Raj Khosla and produced by Guru Dutt, with Dev Anand in the lead role ( incidentally this film is also known for introducing Waheeda Rehman to Hindi cinema). This film starts  with the murder of an honest editor and goes on to expose crime in high society circles. Racy music by OP Nayyar also contributed much to the great popularity of the film.

Some other films of Raj Khosla like Mera Saaya also come close to the genre of   social thriller. A film by K.A. Abbas Bambai Raat Ki Baahon Mein, with a journalist in the main lead, is also close to being a good social thriller as it exposes several sides of crime  in a big city. Damini, a more recent film known for its powerful opposition of rape, also comes close to the social thriller genre with a lot of courtroom drama. In recent  Pink, Fugly and Laal Rang also got discussed as social thrillers.

On the other the one Hindi film-maker who can be credited with taking forward the social thriller format with a lot of consistency is B.R.Chopra.  During the 1960s he made three successful social thrillers Kanoon, Humraaz and Ittefaq ( the last one was directed by his brother Yash Chopra). In the 70s he continued with Dhund but by then the social content had become a bit thinner. All these films use the thriller format in ways which  emphasize why special care should be taken in the policing and judicial processes to reduce the possibilities of innocent persons  getting implicated in crimes they did not commit.

The first film of this series Kanoon is also the most powerful from this perspective as the film remains very close to the main theme without getting distracted by various frills of commercial cinema. In fact B.R.Chopra took the risk of doing away entirely with songs in this film and for this reason was considered a significant experiment at that time. The film  managed to do well at the box-office despite the complete absence of songs. Ashok Kumar’s mature acting also helps the film in achieving its aim.

In Ittefaq again the theme that the innocent being implicated in crime should  get opportunity to present his viewpoint comes across effectively, this time helped by the acting skills of Rajesh Khanna.

In addition some other films of B.R.Chopra also have parts which are close to social thrillers. This includes films like Insaf Ka Tarazu, even Waqt and The Burning Train.

Some of the earlier Amitabh Bachan films like Zanzeer, Kala Pather and Deewar also have parts which are close to the genre of social thrillers.

On the whole the genre of social thrillers which has so much potential has not been properly used in Hindi cinema. Due to the paucity of really good social thrillers   even those films which cannot properly get classified as belonging to this genre get some mention. One hopes that this genre will be better utilized in future.

Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include When the Two Streams  Met ( freedom movement) and Protecting Earth for Children.



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